Friday, March 20, 2009

Maggy 2nd chapter

In the Beginning

It had to be a weekend day because Maggy was home. The boys had come and gone during the morning and early afternoon. It was warm enough that I was wearing a short-sleeved dress. It was before my fourth birthday. I was playing on the front porch when a man came up the stairs and rang the doorbell. The door was open but the screen was closed. Maggy yelled from the kitchen, "Come on in, the door's open."

He was looking at me and smiling. "Hi. Remember me? I'm a friend of your big brother's. My name’s Clark, remember? I used to live up the street with my family, remember? What's your name? I forgot."

Maggy had come to the screen and was listening to him. "Clark, how are you? I heard you enlisted in the Air Force. How're you liking it?"

"Fine, just fine, Ma'am. Is J.R. around? I've got a couple of days in town to visit family, and then who knows where?"

"J.R. should be back any minute. I was just going to run to the market, would you mind watching Judy while you wait for J.R.? I won't be long." She turned to me. "You remember Clark, don't you? I'll be right back."
"Can I go?"
"No, you slow me down."
"I can carry."
"No you can't. I'll just have to end up carrying you. Stop this! Clark will stay with you until J.R. gets home and besides I won't be gone more than a half an hour. That's nothing."

Clark looked at me and said, "I can do magic tricks." He kneeled down and looked over his shoulder at Maggy as she started down the steps. I watched her, too. Her hair was in a ponytail, and she wore a white sleeveless blouse. She had a small white purse in her hand. She didn't look back.

Then he stood up and walked to the southeast corner of the porch. He leaned against the stone and concrete pillar supporting the roof and said. "Wanna see something?"

I backed up toward the house and leaned against its river-stone wall and rolled from shoulder to shoulder feeling the bumpy surface. I stuck my thumb in my mouth and stared at him.
"I've got a surprise in my pocket and if you can reach it, it's all yours."
"A penny?"
"You'll have to reach in to find out."
I looked from his pants pocket to his face. He was smiling and his arms were spread wide, palms turned up. He whistled tunelessly and looked around. He shrugged his shoulders and looked down from pocket to pocket.

I inched my way around the porch from the front window to the east side of the house, edging closer until I faced him in the corner. I reached my hand up but could barely grab hold of his pocket with my fingers.

He said, "Here, let me give you a boost." He put his hands around my waist and slid me up his leg until I could slip my arm down into the depths of his pocket. I felt around. There was a crusty wadded up hankie, a piece of paper, and a coin. I closed my fingers on the coin and pulled out my fist. He said, "Let's see what you got," and set me down. I opened my hand and found a coin smaller than a penny and a few bits of lint. The coin was shiny and silver. I looked up and said, "It's not a penny."
"No, it's better than a penny, it's worth ten pennies."
"I want a penny."
"I've got something else that's better than a penny."
"It's a little animal."
"A kitty?"
"Better than a kitty. Come on and I'll show you."
"A duck?"
I took a couple of steps toward him and he reached out and pulled me closer. Then he picked me up and moved a little to the right until his butt was resting on the ledge, one foot on the floor and the other dangling. He sat me on his lap and held me with his right arm. With his left hand he stroked his left leg, high up on the thigh. A bump wiggled there. He said, "That's my little animal, wanna touch it?"
I shook my head no.
He said, "Look, I can make it jump. He ran the flat of his hand down the length of it and it jumped.
I leaned back in his right arm and laughed.
He said, "It won't hurt you. Honestly, you can touch it. Here, I'll put you down. You get right in front of me and reach up. It won't bite."
He gently slid me down so that I was positioned right in front of him. That lumpy, jumpy animal was above my face. He said, "Go ahead and touch it."
I reached out my finger and poked it gently. Nothing happened. "Why don't you try petting it like you would a kitty?"
I patted it softly and it jumped. I pulled my hand back and he said, "That's okay, you can pet it, he likes that." So I reached up and rubbed it. It moved again and it was warm. He said. "Wanna see it?"

I looked up at his smiling face, his eyebrows raised in anticipation of showing me his animal. I shook my head up and down. He said, "I can't take it out on the porch, I'm afraid it'll run away. Let's go inside." He took me by the hand and led me to the screen door, opened it and gently pushed me in before him.

He told me to lie down on the rug in front of the sofa. Then he kneeled down at my feet and unzipped his pants. He said, "Here, move your legs a little so I can get him closer to you. I don't want him to get lost in here. Now close your eyes. He's shy." He moved forward on his knees, bent down, reached up and pulled my panties down around my ankles where they got hung up on my shoes. He got them off one leg, and then he put something very warm and smooth on my tummy and wiggled it back and forth. I was nervous with my eyes closed, but it didn't hurt. Then he pushed it at my peepee and it hurt. I opened my eyes and said, "Ow, that hurt!" I tried to scoot away from him, but he pulled me toward his animal and tried to push it in my peepee. I screamed, and he put his hand over my mouth and tried to put his animal in my bum. Then the back door screen slammed. And he was running. And the front door screen slammed. And he was gone.

Maggy came into the living room after setting her package on the kitchen table. She said, "Judy, what the hell are you bawling about?"

I was curled up facing the sofa, blubbering. Snot and tears streaked my face. My dress was bunched up under my arms and my panties wadded around one ankle. I just kept sobbing. She came around the sofa, sat down and looked at me for a minute. Then she said, "I know what will make you feel better. We'll go on a picnic at Lindsey Gardens. I'll make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Now put your panties on and come help me. We'll wash your hands and face and you can put the jelly on."

I don't remember fixing sandwiches or walking to Lindsey Gardens, but I do remember having to pee. She said, "Just go over there behind that bush, no one will see you. Don't pee on your shoes."

I don't remember the bush or the picnic blanket, or anything else, but I do remember the burning. There was fire in my pee. I screamed and hobbled over to her, pulling my panties up and crying. She said, "That's what happens when you let boys do things like that. Don't ever let a boy do that to you again!"

I don't think Maggy told anyone about what happened to me. I do remember listening to screaming arguments between Maggy and Chuck about my behavior. I was afraid to be left alone, unless I was securely locked in the upstairs bathroom, and even though I could unlock the door, I wouldn't. Not for anyone. They kept a ladder on the west side of the house and left the bathroom window unlocked, which was too high for me to reach. Then my brothers told me that the Boogieman lived in the toilet. I found another hiding place, and started to wet my bed.

This bad behavior of mine ignited tempers in the adults. I became a problem for everyone. All I wanted to do was hide. But even late at night there was no hiding from fighting. It would simmer at the dinner table until I made some kind of mess. I might drop peas in my lap, or knock over my milk, and my father would swear, shout, and send me from the table. This dinner event would set the tone for the rest of the evening, until finally, exhausted, they all gave up bickering, went to bed, and silence would descend on the house. It was then, in the quiet of the night, with everyone at home, that I felt safe. But it was a rare night when we were all at home together at the same time. Most times JR and Pat went out after dinner.

Things got quiet for a little while after the big boys left. John spent his evenings at home in his room working on airplane models, and I was not allowed to bother him, but I wouldn't have anyway. All the boys had made it clear to me I wasn't welcome in their rooms. They had been mean to me in so many ways; I had long since stopped pestering them for attention. Chuck went out almost every night. His leaving was almost always accompanied by a lot of yelling. And if Maggy went out too, I was, in the core of my small self, alone in the house. John might actually be in the house with me, but even so, I was alone. It scared me so much to be alone in that big house with the boogieman in the toilet, and mean men outside who could just walk in the door and hurt me with their animals any way they wanted to, and it would be my fault.

One night, late, after all the boys had gone to bed, and the house was calm and quiet, Chuck came home and started shouting the minute he opened the front door. He yelled, "Maggy! Get your ass down here and fix me something to eat." In the silence that followed it sounded like everyone was holding their breath. Then he shouted, "Bitch!" And I heard his heavy clomping as he stomped up the stairs. I could hear his voice, but not the words. Then I heard her voice, loud and angry. "Shut up! You'll wake everybody." There was more indistinct shouting and then the sound of scuffling as they progressed down the hall, with curses back and forth. Then the noise of them coming down the stairs--his shoes loud on the hardwood, her voice saying, "No, stop it! You bastard! You're hurting me! Stop it!" Then a crashing sound and he said, "Get up, you stupid bitch!" By the time they entered the kitchen, one thin wall from my bed, I was trembling, thumb jammed into my mouth, eyes shut tight. I could hear her bare feet like little slaps walk to the table, a chair scrape across the floor. I heard him walk to the fridge and the door yanked open, then the sound of one bowl after another hit the floor. I heard breaking glass and a wet, squishy sound as the contents of the fridge were emptied onto the kitchen floor. She would say, "Shit," or "Stop this," but I was sure she was just sitting at the kitchen table smoking, while he dumped everything on the floor. He screamed, "Get up, you fucking bitch," and I heard the chair topple and her knees hit the floor. There were sounds of wrestling on the floor, like something the boys would do. She says, "No" over and over. He calls her names like, "Stupid fucking cow," and "bitch" over and over. Then he shouts, "Clean up this mess you worthless cunt!" and I hear his hard shoes stomp out of the kitchen and across the dinning room and then clomp, clomp, up the stairs, down the hall, and their bedroom door slams.

Then the only sounds are the quiet ones Maggy makes as she runs water in a bucket. The soft grating sounds as she scrapes the gobs of wet food off the floor and slops it in the trash. The soft muffled sound of a cloth swishing back and forth. Water gurgles down the drain. She picks up the chair and sits down. I hear her Zippo click, hear her intake of breath, a pause, her exhale. I hear my own heart beating. If she were not so fierce, I would want to comfort her. I know how to comfort. You put your arms around the one you love and say, "There, there. It'll be okay. I love you." I cannot tell you how I know this. It has never happened in our house.

In the fall of 1948, Maggy found me a nursery school for disturbed children.


Lady F said...

Goddamnit, that was awesome to read, but I couldn't help but feel my hackles rise as soon as that asshole showed up on the porch!
Only one misspelling: "...the house was calm and quite"(quiet) - other than that, gripping material.

Randal Graves said...

The only two problem I have are:

1)the 'M married C' blah blah blah when 'C + M got married.' I actually enjoy seeing bookend repetition like that now and then, but maybe because this paragraph is so short, it strikes me as unnecessary.

2)Boogie Man and boogieman. Either/or, not both.

Other than that, it's quality stuff. Oh, maybe add a rocket-powered sleigh and radioactive lemurs.

Utah Savage said...

Thank you Lady F. Fixed. One typo down.

Utah Savage said...

Thanks for catching those things. I fixed them, but I know you think I use too many commas. Should I do a comma search and removal?

themom said...

Hmmmm.."radioactive lemurs", that would be interesting. Quite a vivid piece here. I think I may have (I did) lived that same little girl's life. I try not to go there if at all possible. But riveting no less.

Lady F said...

I don't think you use too many commas - I think I do! Don't mess with them if you don't have to - they are not a distraction by any means. Sorry for that misunderstanding, Utah.

Utah Savage said...

Randal is the one who thinks I use too many commas. He is the comma guru. I won't feel secure that this is punctuated correctly until he has signed off on it.

Utah Savage said...

TheMom, thanks for reading, even though the content, when it hits home, is difficult. Maybe it's difficult for everyone.

La Belette Rouge said...

The first four paragraphs made me think of the old writing chestnut of show don't tell and there is a lot of telling in those paragraphs where there could be more showing. By paragraphs five you are up and running and I am running with you. I guess I would like more examples and details. I feel like you have lots of them and are holding out on us.

If this isn't the kind of editing you are looking for feel free to throw my comment away.

themom said...

Utah, even though it may be difficult for others, it is still a good writing - don't forget that. Difficult things can be overcome.

Utah Savage said...

Yes, this is true, my Belette Rouge. You are right. But I'm inclined to start the chapter later. This is history to be gotten out of the way. Because my the little person with the eyes for the story has only been told this part, and because there are photographs of the time. I really do need to start over with this.

This may necessitate shelving the novel for awhile and trying to publish a short story instead. I write fast, I edit forever, and often badly. Basing editorial decisions on what I know comes later in the story.

Utah Savage said...

Maybe starting with the real action of this chapter, the event that takes the entire family into chaos. The secret that makes everything else possible is the way to go. Thank you La Bellete Rouge, you pushed me to solve that problem. Cut. Do not pussy foot around.

El Vox said...

I agree with La Belette, about some of the show, don't tell. However the conflict, for me, drew me in.

Utah Savage said...

El Vox, I got rid of the paragraphs La Belette objected to. I cut to the chase.

Anonymous said...

I can't understand why this got rejected by a publisher. Oh my! Some people have no taste!But then I've read somewhere that Jane Austen was rejected over one hundred times, before she finally got accepted.I have not even read it all and I can see the potential. Really and I do not lie. I am a Catholic!
My eyes are kinda screwy tonight but I will be back!

Utah Savage said...

Sarah, thank you so much for reading and commenting. I'm so glad to have you as a reader. Please stay and become one of the writers who reads and comments. You are such a talented poet. Your comments here will bring readers to your site, which deserves a much larger audience. You are very gifted.